WISE (THOMAS JAMES) Series of some thirty autograph letters signed (two entirely in the hand of his wife Louie), to C.W. Hatfield, 1917-1929
Lot 134*
WISE (THOMAS JAMES) Series of some thirty autograph letters signed (two entirely in the hand of his wife Louie), to C.W. Hatfield, 1917-1929
Sold for £2,125 (US$ 3,571) inc. premium
Lot Details
Series of some thirty autograph letters signed (two entirely in the hand of his wife Louie), to C.W. Hatfield, co-editor with Wise and T.A. Symington of the Shakespeare Head edition of the Brontës' works and authority on the poems of Emily Brontë, largely concerning A Brontë Library (1929), for which Wise solicits an introduction from Hatfield ("...I am making a point of having each introduction by the man who is the leading authority upon the author whose books are dealt with in it... The Introduction may deal with the subject in any manner, just in whatever way you please. You have the opportunity to say anything you want to say regarding the Brontës:- Critical, Biographical: Bibliographical, or anything you chance to fancy..."); as regards Hatfield's suggested emendations to the text, Wise protests that it is too late to follow his instructions to the letter but promises to do what he can by way of notes or a digest of his comments ("...After all this is a 'Catalogue of my Brontë Collection', not a 'Bibliography of the Brontë Writings', hence I need not insert all the facts as known..."); several of the letters discuss a manuscript of attributed by Wise to Emily but reattributed by Hatfield to Branwell which Wise has mislaid ("...I am more puzzled than ever about 'The Wanderer,' – & it is a nuisance that of all my Brontë things this is just the one upon which I am unable to lay my hands... I can only think that when the MS. was returned to me by Shorter it got slipped into some corner instead of being properly replaced among the other Brontë books. That it is in my house in certain... That it is in the handwriting of Emily is certain; but in the face of what you tell me the authorship is most uncertain. In any case I must add a note to the entry in the Catalogue [which in fact he did]... I think it was in 1893 that I bought these MSS. from old Nicholls, – but it may have been 1894..."), nearly 90 pages, 8vo, Hampstead and elsewhere, 1917-1929


  • THOMAS J. WISE AMONG THE BRONTËS: alongside his activities as a forger and book-vandal, Wise caused irreparable damage to the Brontë canon by selling off piecemeal the letters and manuscripts he had acquired from Ellen Nussey and Charlotte's widower Arthur Nicholls (or "old Nicholls" as he calls him here): see Margaret Smith's Introduction to The Letters of Charlotte Brontë, i (1995), pp. 52-63. Wise remained nevertheless alert to the misdeeds of others, warning Hatfield: "You know, of course, that some of the extant copies of the Aylott & Jones copies [of the Poems] are faked? That is, their binding (because in bad [?] order) has been exchanged for covers taken from fresh copies of the Smith Elder issue. This is frequently done with the books of Conrad, R.L. Stevenson & others" (although another of his speculations concerning presentation copies of the book earn from Hatfield a crisp "No" pencilled in the margin). Indeed, he was not slow to denounce shoddy scholarship and dubious attributions wherever they were to be found: "I was quite satisfied myself regarding the nature of the Inscription; but I wanted to be supported by you when I denounce it to Sotheby's".
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